No One Writes to the Colonel – Gabriel García Márquez

Fridays are different. Every other day of the week, the Colonel and his ailing wife fight a constant battle against poverty and monotony, scraping together the dregs of their savings for the food and medicine that keeps them alive. But on Fridays the postman comes – and that sets a fleeting wave of hope rushing through the Colonel’s ageing heart.

For fifteen years he’s watched the mail launch come into harbour, hoping he’ll be handed an envelope containing the army pension promised to him all those years ago. Whilst he waits for the cheque, his hopes are pinned on his prize bird and the upcoming cockfighting season. But until then the bird – like the Colonel and his wife – must somehow be fed. . .

No one writes like Márquez either, so after years away from his works – apologies for such an oversight in my reading schedule – even one of his minor tales feels like a privilege to read.  This succinct story is packed full of melancholy, humanity and wonderful writing, each line seem precisely weighted for maximum enjoyment.

Waiting plays a big part throughout these pages, life is staid and conventional, poised but never moving on whilst all around ages towards the inevitable.  Will that pension ever arrive to allow living to progress again?  The limbo is palpable.

The unfair nature of so many circumstances in the novella are nothing new, especially those who despite fighting in wars are the first to be forgotten when it comes to what they are owed – even though they are afforded respect.  Márquez, however, adds to this with his sense of the bigger picture, from the inane bureaucracy of governments, the sense or lack of loyalty from neighbours, to the sheer brutal chances of life choices.

The need of the Colonel and his wife to put on a facade and show themselves as keeping up appearances with both the neighbours and the town in general, is a facade largely ignored by the locals, their beliefs held in check through respect for his duty.  It’s all rather a sad state of affairs.

There is hope though, the gamble of waiting for the pension, and the rearing of the rooster, and the attitudes of the fellow townsfolk.  It all seems very tenuous, as if were one domino to fall everything would change, or perhaps nothing would change, both of which are terrifying thoughts.

Although NOWttC is a short story, Márquez is always supremely capable of transforming what in reality is mundane into something fascinating with dramatic flair.  For regular readers there are a wealth of subtle references to some of his other works making this rewarding for hardcore fans but also a solid starting point for new readers.

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13 Replies to “No One Writes to the Colonel – Gabriel García Márquez”

  1. I haven’t read this yet but I enjoyed One Hundred Years of Solitude. Love in the Time of Cholera not much. Lost both trade paperback copies during typhoon Ondoy back in 2009.

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    1. I loved both of those books, in fact I think I have enjoyed all of his works. It’s a shame you lost your copies, I really get gutted when my specific copies get ruined. I know I can pick up another copy but my copy was special.

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    1. I’m enamoured with all of his books, his longest books One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Love in the Time of Cholera are his greatest works but I have a soft soft spot for this one. Any of his books are well worth a read, just in case you can’t find this one.

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    1. It is a great starting place to discover Márquez, and the covers are wonderful, I have collected most of the set of these covers. It has a simplicity about it that I like, it’s very evocative, ad conjures up so many images.

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  2. I really need to read some Marquez. I know you love his work, and have recommended him several times (which is enough reason in and of itself to pick up a book), and so have many others whose opinions I respect as well. I did see the movie, “Love in the Time of Cholera,” and it was outstandingly well-done. I just have to get around to it soon, because i have promised myself to do so, as with so many other things.

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    1. Many of his works of of a shorter nature if you don’t fancy delving into his monumental works, Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a good start, and if you fancy some stream of consciousness The Autumn of the Patriarch is a corker too. If I remember rightly there are less than ten full stops in the whole book.

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